1 Extending the Legacy of Morris Janowitz: Pragmatism

Extending the Legacy of Morris Janowitz:
Pragmatism, International Relations and Peacekeeping
Patricia Shields
Texas State University
[email protected]
Joseph Soeters
Netherlands Defence Academy
Tilburg University
[email protected]
Presented at the European Group on Military and Society (ERGOMAS) Biannual Conference,
June 4-7, 2013, Madrid
The use of force in international relations has been so altered that it seems appropriate to
speak of constabulary forces, rather than of military forces. The constabulary concept provides
a continuity with past military experiences and traditions ….. The constabulary outlook is
grounded in, and extends, pragmatic doctrine
Janowitz, 1971 p. 418
“Peacekeeping is intended to assist in the creation and maintenance of conditions
conducive to long-term conflict resolution” (Bellamy et al, p.95). The resolution of these
conflicts, however, is often facilitated by mediation efforts within and between nations and
may not adhere to any particular traditional theory of international relations (IR). Peace
support operations are carried out by dynamic international coalitions mostly under the
aegis of the United Nations (UN), sometimes headed by other alliances such as NATO, the
European Union or the African Union. Unfortunately, their record is mixed at best. They
represent an important type of sub-national nexus event, which requires the development
of new approaches to international relations theories.
Throughout Europe, for example, nations are reshaping their militaries to take on
new missions (Furst and Kummel 2011). Peace support and stability operations are chief
among them. Conventional international relations theory, however, is weakly suited for
making sense of and explaining these missions.
Long-established approaches to international relations such as realism and liberal
internationalism share assumptions about how the world operates.1 Unfortunately, in
many international disputes strict adherence to fundamentalist thinking tends to reinforce
E.g. W. Carlsnaes, B.A. Simmons & Th. Risse (eds.), Handbook of International Relations, Thousand Oaks: Sage,
and deepen the conflict. This paper argues that pragmatism is a particularly useful way to
make use of multiple theoretical traditions to conceptualize peacekeeping, peacemaking
and the day-to-day issues associated with peace support operations, unavailable to narrow
adherence to one or another traditionalist view.
In 1960, Chicago sociologist, Morris Janowitz wrote The Professional Soldier2. In this
book he articulated a rudimentary conception of international relations clearly grounded in
the pragmatism of John Dewey. He developed his conception of pragmatism as a way to
analyze officer behavior and the response of military institutions to the uncertainties of a
nuclear age. He concludes by introducing the notion of a constabulary force, which was
“grounded” in the “pragmatic doctrine.” It should be noted that soldier’s with boots on the
ground carry out many peacekeeping directives. Soldiers are trained to kill and break
things to protect their citizens. This heroic warrior mindset is problematic when applied to
new missions. The success of peace support operations may depend on an approach to
peacekeeping like pragmatism that transcends dualisms such as war/peace, friend/enemy,
We hope to contribute to contemporary literature on pragmatism and international
relations by reviving and extending Janowitz’s contribution. In addition, this paper extends
early pragmatist thought to contemporary peace support operations. It does this by
incorporating classical insights from Jane Addams and recent advances from David
Brendel. Finally, the case of the peacekeeping mission in the Congo is used to illustrate how
pragmatism provides a useful framework for analysis as well as a practical approach for
improving peace support operations.
Note most references in this chapter to The Professional Soldier are to the 1971, second edition.
Pragmatism is relevant to peacekeeping because it is flexible and tied to larger
democratic values. Pragmatism’s flexibility arises from a focus on problem resolution,
which rejects traditional ideological dogma in favor of a contextual, situation-based
approach. Conflict prevention and peacemaking are addressed through inquiry, actions and
consequences. In addition, inquiry is not isolated to individual decision makers; rather
there is a “community of inquiry,” which informs the decision making process by
incorporating a variety of communal experiences (Shields, 2003; 2004; 2005). A
peacekeeping “community of inquiry” would incorporate not only constabulary
peacekeeping forces but also groups that are traditionally considered the object of the
peacekeeping efforts.
Janowitz’s Pragmatic IR Theory
‘Absolutists’ are distinguishable from ‘pragmatists’ because they have developed differing
conceptions of international relations” (Janowitz 1971, 272).
Morris Janowitz articulated his pragmatic theory of IR and civil military relations
by contrasting it with absolutism, which he considered a variation of realism (Janowitz
1971, 264). Although Janowitz used pragmatism in his treatment of the many sociology
topics; in The Professional Soldier he made explicit connections between pragmatism, IR
and civil military relations. It should be noted that the purpose of The Professional Soldier
was not to develop a pragmatic IR theory. Rather The Professional Soldier was a political
and social picture of the military officer as an emerging profession between 1900 and the
1960s. It maintained that the differences between society and the military has blurred
since the early 1900s. “It described a military organization in which authoritarian
domination gave way to greater reliance on persuasion and manipulation; skill
requirements more nearly reflected civilian skill structures … and a pragmatic outlook
toward war supplanted an absolute outlook” (Burk 1991, 13-14 Italics added). The
Professional Soldier also articulated a vision of civil military relations, which focused on
ways to sustain democratic values (Burk 2002).
Janowitz explained his vision of pragmatism by contrasting it with an “absolute”
doctrine, which emphasized the permanency of the rules of warfare and the importance of
victory. He developed these ideas during the Cold War when the specter of nuclear
annihilation overshadowed limited conflicts such as Vietnam and North Korea. Janowitz
argued absolutist and pragmatic doctrine informed officer behavior during this period. He
saw absolutism and pragmatism as competing and complementary perspectives within
which officers led and managed military institutions. Both perspectives were observed and
incorporated depending on circumstances. For example, he contrasted the “boots-on-theground” Army with the “up-in-the-clouds” god’s-eye view of the Air Force. He maintained
that the pragmatic view was more easily observed in the Army, while the absolutist view
dominated the Air Force (Janowitz, 1971, 277). Problems are messier on the ground, and it
is perhaps easier to see truth from above.
Historically the military has had a tension between heroic leaders (or perpetual
warriors) and managers who consider larger political goals and ensure the men and
materials needed in hot and cold war environments reach their destination (Janowitz 1971,
258). The challenge was for military institution to incorporate both visions. Twentieth
century military institutions had yet another complicating factor: fast paced changes in
technology shape both the ends and means of war. To cope with this complexity, military
leaders use an operational code or a “pattern of thinking which penetrates an entire
organization” (Janowitz 1971, 258). Both absolutist and pragmatist theories of
international relations influence the operational code of military organizations. Absolutist
theories support the military’s longstanding warrior or heroic tradition, while pragmatist
theory more nearly fits the problem-solving mode of the military manager. Janowitz
maintained that conditions during the 1960s shifted the focus away from the
heroic/absolute tradition towards the pragmatic mode of thinking. The absolutist mode of
thinking became even less necessary in the contemporary post-cold war environment
where operations other than war, peacekeeping missions and counterinsurgency dominate
the landscape.
Janowitz identified key ways the absolute and pragmatic views differed. First, the
absolutist perceived warfare (threatened or actual) as “the most fundamental basis of
international relations” (Janowitz 1971, 264). In contrast, the pragmatists included
political and economic tools along with warfare as instruments of IR (Janowitz 1971; Burk
2005). Second, the absolutists emphasize the role of victory in war and “there was no
substitute for ‘total victory’” (Janowitz 1971, 264). The pragmatic view was tempered by
the radical change that nuclear weapons brought to the nature of war and focused instead
on how to adapt the “use of the threat of violence to” achieve political objectives. “To use
too much or too little is self defeating” (Janowitz 1971, 264). In a world of nuclear weapons
the term victory lost its meaning.
Third, the absolutists focus on victory left ends fixed. Manipulating means to achieve
victory was perhaps the ultimate goal of IR. This conceptualization left no room to consider
the ‘indigenous other’, which fills and complicates the landscape of counterinsurgency and
peacekeeping missions. In contrast, pragmatists saw both ends and means as variables and
calculated military means “in light of the political ends sought.” At the same time,“political
ends were also defined and sometimes limited by what military means could achieve”
(Burk 2005, 157). Therefore, in Janowitz’s view “pragmatists are concerned not only with
adapting military means to achieve desired ends, but insist that the end must be
conditioned by what military technology is capable of achieving.” This meant accepting that
“some ends cannot be achieved” (Janowitz 1971, 265). The flexibility of ends and means
opens the door to considering the role of the indigenous other.
Fourth, while the absolutist focused on the punitive concept of war, pragmatists
maintained that a dogmatic adherence to unconditional surrender could make it difficult to
achieve political goals. If punitive practices compromised political objectives pragmatists
argue they should be dispensed with. Finally, absolutists maintain that the states role in
international relations was to protect their self-interest. Pragmatists argued that state’s use
of force should reinforce “commitments to a system of international alliance” (Janowitz,
1971, 273). Implicitly state sovereignty “was not absolute (as it was in a Hobbesian order)
but was harnessed to the aims and needs of an international community” (Burk 2005, 157).
The Professional Soldier drew out the dimensions of the pragmatic theory of
international relations by contrasting it with absolutism. Janowitz argued that pragmatic
theory was part of the military’s operational code because it was a way of thinking or
problem solving that was already easy to observe in practice. The task of The Professional
Soldier, in part, was to reveal the existing pragmatic operational code and to use the
pragmatic theory of IR to make sense of the future. The constabulary force was one of the
key concepts to emerge from this tension. Janowitz developed his theories during the Cold
War. This chapter builds on Janowitz’s ideas and shows how pragmatism makes sense in
the context of 21st century peace support operations.
Janowitz and Chicago School Pragmatism
Morris Janowitz is intimately linked to the Sociology department of the University of
Chicago. He was part of the faculty, chaired the department and received his PhD there
(with the exception of ten years in Michigan); Janowitz studied and worked at the
University of Chicago from 1946 until 1987) (Burk, 1991, 8). Chicago’s department of
sociology grew out of its philosophy department (Deegan 1988). Founders of pragmatism
such as George Herbert Mead and John Dewey were faculty in Chicago’s philosophy
department and are claimed by the sociology department (Deegan, 1988). Janowitz has
clear ties to this intellectual tradition. He saw himself as the “heir to the great Chicago
sociologists”(Burk, 1991, 2-3). During his career he extended “the logic of a pragmatic
approach to the study of modern society” He acknowledged a special connection to Dewey
and his works, particularly Logic: The Theory of Inquiry (1938) and The Public and Its
Problems (1954) (Burk, 1991, 54-55).
“Implicitly, he [Janowitz] accepted Dewey’s theory of inquiry. His style was to
discuss the history of theory as it informed empirical research about a
particular problem, and to render an evaluation of the consequences of
various hypotheses for clarifying the character of the problem and suggesting
how it might be resolved” (Burk, 1991, 25).
In addition, Janowitz rejected grand or idealist-theoretical conceptions that dealt
with the social world as a unified whole. These conceptions were marked by “formal
dichotomies defined outside experience.” Instead, “social relations and context were
always overlapping and interpenetrating,” resulting in dynamic social organizations “which
were never more than partially integrated or relatively autonomous”(Burk, 1991, 25).
Peacekeeping missions operate across a spectrum of conflict where complex social
relations overlap and interpenetrate in dynamic ways.
Janowitz also noted that the unpredictable nature of social interaction creates
problems of social control. Clearly, peace support operations are part of a “social
organization” and respond to breakdowns in “social control”. For Janowitz, social control
was “not a mechanism for obtaining social conformity” (Burk 1991, 27). Rather, it referred
to the “capacity of a society to regulate itself; and this capacity generally implies a set of
goals” (Janowitz 1975/1991, 73). This principle rested on two values – reduction in both
coercion and human misery. He did recognize, however, that total elimination of coercion
or human suffering was unrealistic.
When the process of social control in a society is effective it maintains “social order
while transformation and social change take place” (Janowitz 1975/1991, 75). This
pragmatic approach emphasized a focus on the context of social control, as well as the
environment in which measures of control were implemented. This focus is not only more
ethical in its consideration of local peoples; it is also necessary for enabling social changes
that lead to successful peacekeeping outcomes.
Janowitz believed the social sciences had the potential to serve democratic leaders
and contribute to their success by offering a way to evaluate the “prospects for a social
change. He used the term institution building to refer to this contribution” (Burk, 1991, 39).
Janowitz (1978, 400) defined institution building as “conscious efforts to direct societal
change and to search for more effective social control” which were supported by social
science and grounded in rationality. His unique “pragmatic sociology” grew from this effort.
For Janowitz a pragmatic sociology took into account “the constancy of social change
and the need for institutional adaption which cooperative social action” made possible
(Burk, 1991, 45). Its role was to extrapolate societal trends to indicate their “implications
for social control and to clarify realistic alternatives for institution building.” As a result,
sociological concepts are refined and the likelihood of mitigating the “strains of modern
society are improved” (Burk 1991, 45). One would presume that, in this view, a
peacekeeping mission’s success should be judged by whether the ‘hosting’ societies in
which they operate are eventually able to resolve their conflict. Furthermore, these
operations would ideally facilitate the building of institutions that enable a self-regulating
mechanism of social control. In addition, these institutions would maintain order and allow
for productive societal transformation.
Jane Addams, Pragmatism and Peacekeeping
Changes in the field of pragmatism and global security make application of
pragmatism to peacekeeping even more timely and relevant. In the late 1980s and 1990s
just as Janowitz was withdrawing from academia, the ideas and works of Jane Addams
began to be incorporated into the legacy of Chicago Sociology and classical (Chicago)
pragmatism (Deegan 1988; Seigfried 1996). Jane Addams, a “recognized social theorist of
major proportion” lived and worked in Chicago and interacted closely with both Dewey and
Mead (Seigfried, 1996, 44).
Seigfried (1996, 43-44) attributes Addams lack of historical recognition to historic
prejudice “against women assuming leadership positions in coeducational institutions, and
the sexism of philosophy departments.” Addams, a leader in the reformist, Settlement
movement, brought a community of inquiry to Chicago’s complex, poor, politically corrupt,
conflict ridden, and immigrant neighborhoods (Shields 2005; 2006). Addams interest in the
settlement movement drew her to Chicago where she and H.G. Starr began the Hull-House
Settlement. In Twenty Years at Hull-House she defined a settlement as:
The Settlement3, then is an experimental effort to aid in the solution of the
social and industrial problems which are engendered by the modern
conditions of life in a great city…. From its very nature it [the Settlement]
can stand for no political or social propaganda. … The one thing to be
dreaded in the Settlement is that it loses its flexibility, its power of quick
adaptation, its readiness to change its methods as its environment may
demand. It must be open to conviction and must have a deep and abiding
sense of tolerance. It must be hospitable and ready for experiment. It should
demand from its residents a scientific patience in the accumulation of facts
and the steady holding of their sympathies as one of the best instruments
for that accumulation (Addams, 1910, 125-126).
The ideas of Addams are relevant here because they apply to the contemporary
peacekeeping environment as well. To illustrate this point we have substituted terms
It is interesting to note that a 1993 US Army Document on Operations Other Than War used the term “settlement”
as an alternative for the term “victory”.
related to peacekeeping (in italics) into Addams definition of Settlement as an attempt
to show how well her ideas translate.
The peacekeeping-mission, then is an experimental effort to aid in the solution
of the social problems which are engendered by the modern conditions of
intra- and international conflict…. From its very nature it [peacekeeping forces]
can stand for no political or social propaganda…. The one thing to be
dreaded in a peace support operation is that it loses its flexibility, its power of
quick adaptation, its readiness to change its methods as its environment
may demand. Peacekeepers must be open to conviction and must have a deep
and abiding sense of tolerance. They must be hospitable and ready for
experiment. Peacekeeping missions should demand from its peacekeepers a
scientific patience in the accumulation of facts and the steady holding of
their sympathies as one of the best instruments for that accumulation
(adapted from Addams, 1910, 125-126).
The philosophy that guided Addams‟s Settlement (definition and practice) has
applicability to peacekeeping missions. The pragmatist approaches problems with an
experimental mindset. As a result, the pragmatic leader is flexible and prepared for fast
paced change. In addition, a well-developed theory of participatory democracy
enhances the peacekeeper‟s ability to work collaboratively in the highly plural
peacekeeping environment.
At Hull-House Jane Addams often acted as a leader and mediator. It should be
noted that aside from language barriers, people within in the immigrant community
“often had contempt for one another. They brought their old-world national hostilities
with them. This made the neighborhood more contentious than one might expect”
(Holbrook, 1895, 15). One of her approaches drew on the familiar disregard of fixated
belief systems and rigid dualisms (Peirce, 1955). She also mediated antagonistic, often
violent labor management disputes. Addams‟ role as a mediatory at Hull House draws
significant parallels to peacekeeping operations.
Addams (1902) and the residents of Hull-House worked to effect reform within the
political framework of a corrupt Cook County. Very much like peacekeepers, the mostly
female residents of Hull-House had minimal formal political power (they did not even have
the right to vote or hold office). Although Addams reform efforts may have appeared
radical at the time, she always respected and worked within the existing political
framework. Peace support troops may at times feel just as powerless as they deal with
corruption and other seemingly intractable problems of the peacekeeping environment.
We are not suggesting peacekeepers uncritically adopt a 19th Century Settlement
Movement approach; rather, useful, insights emerged from an experiential setting that
resonates with the 21st Century peace support environment.
Applied Pragmatism
Aside from incorporating the ideas of Addams, pragmatism is being explored as a
useful framework in contemporary applied fields such as public administration, law,
psychiatry, organization studies, and environmental studies. Insights from the applied
fields have resulted in a focus on problematic situations, which are more closely aligned
with the boots-on-the-ground, sub-national aspects of peacekeeping (vis-à-vis more
abstract relations between nations or institutional behavior). Janowitz’s social science
oriented pragmatic sociology is being supplemented by developments in these fields.
One might envision philosophy (pragmatism), social science (sociology) and
applied fields within a continuum that begins with higher levels of abstraction and
moves towards narrower levels of existential nuance. At the broadest end would be
philosophy; then as inquiry moves to a focused field of study, social science becomes
relevant; then using insights from both and combining them with experience, the
applied interdisciplinary world becomes significant. Finally, as this process unfolds
problematic situations stimulate actions. The three categories (philosophy, social
science, and applied science) are, in the pragmatic sense overlapping and
interpenetrating distinctions connected through complex existential processes.
Pragmatism provides a generic logic of inquiry with a focus on democracy, experience,
and practical relevance. Janowitz used these notions about social categories to develop
his theories of social control and institution building; goals, which peace support
missions are clearly intend to advance. Applied pragmatism offers a more concrete way
for peacekeepers to focus on activities, which should enhance social control and
institution building.
For pragmatism to penetrate the field of peacekeeping it should be relatively easy to
transmit and apply. David Brendel (2006) developed such a framework, which he called the
four P’s of pragmatism. The four P’s stand for practical, pluralistic, participatory,
provisional. As a practicing psychiatrist and philosopher, Brendel developed a framework
to reconcile a growing split4 within psychiatry between those who promote a singularly
scientific perspective and those who promote a humanistic perspective (Brendel, 2006,
3). In so doing, Brendel shows how classical pragmatism provides a way to resituate the
field‟s attention where it belongs – on patient welfare.
Psychiatry should focus on the practical problems of patient healing. Then,
practical problems should incorporate a pluralistic perspective. Doctors are not all
knowing experts; rather the patient and patient‟s family should be explicitly included in
treatment decisions. Thus, patient welfare is explored in a participatory fashion. Finally,
any treatment is fraught with uncertainty and thus every approach is provisional
(Brendel, 2006).5
Taking this line of pragmatic thinking from psychiatry to peacekeeping the study by
Morjé Howard (2008) seems important. She identified mechanisms of organizational
learning that contribute to a peacekeeping mission’s success (2008, 14-20). More
specifically, she distinguishes four factors, i.e. a) the use of (technical) information from all
sides in judging progress and decision making, b) the coordination of the international
troops and workers including the continous re-evaluation and re-aligning of task
prioritization, c) the organizational engagement with the environment including the wide
distribution of staff in the field, and d) leadership, particularly the ability to learn from
See Tanya Luhrmann’s (2000) book Of Two Minds: The Growing Disorder in American Psychiatry for
documentation of the divide.
Shields (2008) has demonstrated how Brendel‟s 4P framework is useful in the applied field of public
administration. Snider (2011), Whetsell and Shields (2011), and Alexander (2009), have also applied the 4Ps of
pragmatism to Public Administration. Shields (2011) also linked the 4P’s to the expeditionary mindset and global
previous actions and alter the policy goals of the various factions in the area. She maintains
that successful incorporation of these conditions predict mission success.
Even though Morjé Howard does not explicitly refer to pragmatism, we argue her
factors are consistent with tenets of pragmatism and converge with the 4PS – the anchor
points of applied pragmatism used in this analysis. The role of information resembles
practical, the coordination of the international work force relates to pluralism, the
organization’s engagement with the environment is similar to participatory, and the role of
leadership’s ability to learn and change policy goals comes close to provisional. Admittedly,
the words are not identical, but the resemblances are striking. This coherence with other
pragmatic theorizing also underlines the validity of the 4P framework.6
The next section applies Brendel’s framework to peace support operations in the
Democratic Republic Congo and illustrates how pragmatism provides a useful lens to
analyze peacekeeping missions.
Connecting pragmatism and peacekeeping in the Heart of Africa.
Peace support operations are often, but necessarily, conducted under the aegis of
the United Nations. In 2011 the UN ran 15 peace operations including a special political
mission in Afghanistan. The largest mission, MONUSCO, is in the Democratic Republic (DR)
of Congo, where over a period of more than 15 years one of the bloodiest modern conflicts
It may be interesting to see how another female pragmatist forerunner Mary Parker Follett advocates ideas that
come close to the 4Ps. In her work she stresses the need of acknowledging the importance of the situation at hand to
understand what will be conducive to the benefit of the people (pragmatism); she emphasizes the constructive
character of conflicts between various groups of people as long as these are able to dialogue and integrate
(pluriformity); her ideas continuously revolve around concrete joint activities, having all stakeholders involved and
extending democracy to the workplace and other daily situations (participation), and finally, she advocates reflective
thinking, creativity through interaction and experimentation (provisional) (see Ansell 2010).
has evolved (Prunier, 2009). About 20,000 people including 1,000 international civilians
and 3,000 local employees are involved in MONUSCO and the budget is close to 1.4 billion
US dollars. Clearly, MONUSCO aims to fulfill a large purpose in this giant, conflict-ridden
country. It is an important example of international relations operating at the sub-national
UN missions seldom have a reputation as effective and successful. Illustrious failures
include missions in the 1990s, particularly the ones in Somalia, Bosnia, Angola and
Rwanda. Yet, there have been other missions that successfully implemented their mandates
and contributed to institution building after the violence had stopped (Namibia, El
Salvador, Mozambique, Eastern Slavonia, and East Timor were UN’s success stories in the
1990s). A Cambodian peace support operation had mixed results (Morjé Howard 2008, 9).
In the fall of 2009 Joseph Soeters, Tom Bijlsma and Ingrid van Osch were engaged in
fieldwork in the DR Congo7. Observations in the next section draw on this fieldwork as well
as on peacekeeping scholarship. Until now the mission in DR Congo has been difficult to
qualify as either a success or a failure. It started more than ten years ago and was named
MONUC until July 2010. On the one hand, the host-national politicians and population
continually express harsh criticisms of the mission. In fact, criticism by the Congolese
politicians (“UN contributes too little”) is in part responsible for the summer of 2010 name,
resolution and composition change. In fact, one could say, this sharp criticism led to a sort
of ‘rebranding’ of the mission in 2010. On the other hand, much of DR Congo’s current
All together, 54 formal interviews were conducted with military and civilian staff as well as with local and
international stakeholders in the area; there were also many informal talks. For a first publication on these data see
van Osch and Soeters, 2010. There are some differences in interpretation between the analysis in this chapter and the
first publication. These differences – a consequence of progressing analysis and understanding as well as varying
emphases - are not fundamental, however. Quotes from the interviews are indicated with quotation marks.
peace and stability – how fragile they may be - depend on the presence of UN Peacekeepers.
In many places violence has decreased due to the UN’s presence, as was confirmed in
almost all interviews. Thus, the MONUSCO force is caught in a Catch 22.
MONUC challenges can be understood and analyzed within the 4P framework.
Moreover, our review shows how pragmatism works but also demonstrates that if the
lessons of pragmatism are better understood the mission’s effectiveness can possibly be
Peacekeeping efforts should limit the scope of violence and facilitate a new
stable, safe political equilibrium. Pragmatism‟s focus on practical outcomes for people in
ordinary life provides a practical starting point to do this (Brendel, 2006, 29). This
practical orientation focuses on the problematic situation as an opportunity for inquiry
and search for solutions tested in action. The focus on a problematic situation is flexible
enough to incorporate wide variations in scope and scale, useful in a dynamic, volatile
peacekeeping environment. In view of this focus, we found a myriad of practical problems
facing the UN peacekeeping force.
In many conversations the story emerged that host-nationals often make angry
gestures, when UN vehicles drive through the streets of capital-city Kinshasa. Sometimes
they even throw stones at the cars. Unfortunately many local people do not see the value of
UN’s presence and many even believe the Congolese people pay for the UN mission.
Besides, the beautiful white cars of those rich foreigners remind them of their own poverty
(Prunier, 2009, 361). In the Eastern part of the country, where there is more violence, the
UN generally is more appreciated. The local, more traditional population in those regions
sees that UN’s presence contributes at least to some extent to the reduction of the violence
committed by aggressive militias and – cynically enough - the formal Congolese army
(FARDC)8. By November 2009 MONUC clearly faced legitimacy problems, which had two
First, the mission’s budget is giant, but the larger share of that budget is spent on the
mission it self. More than 20% goes to aviation costs for UN personnel, whereas the budget
to train, professionalize (and pay!) the formal Congolese armed forces – excluding special
projects such as the construction of garrisons –amounts to less than 2% of the mission’s
total financial resources. The money for concrete ‘quick impact’ projects among the people
may seem considerable, but it pales in comparison to the budget spent on food, housing
and general logistics for the UN mission itself. “The UN mission is a beast that feeds itself”,
as one of the most critical UN staff members said.
Second, the MONUC mission emphasizes a ‘doing good’ policy and focuses on
general, abstract issues such as human rights, good governance and gender policy. While
these abstract goals may be appreciated in theory, the host-nationals seem to be a bit more
interested in seeing their roads and schools repaired and other practical problems resolved
(Prunier, 2009, 362). As Autesserre (2008 110) argued, “the best approach is to make a
priority of treating core problems at the local level (…) rather than focusing exclusively on
managing their broader consequences.” Developing projects and policies that bring people
more tangible, immediate benefits would enhance mission success.
Source: Interviews, informal talks and personal observations.
For example, the problem of violence (mostly) against women in the Eastern part of
the mission could be resolved through practical steps. The UN is capable of preventing and
resolving a lot of this traumatic aggression. Yet, often the UN is too late when the heat is
on, because the distance from the central compounds to the crime spots is simply too large.
“MONUC does not live among the people”, as one of the interviewees, explained. Its
invisibility when needed most is a general complaint about UN’s performance in the
country and elsewhere (Pouligny 2006, 255-256). It also is a problem identified in conflicts
such as Afghanistan (Sinno 2008). The best way for the military to deal with geographic
dispersion of violence is to decentralize the troops among the people in the regions. This
comes close to what is known as community policing in urban areas in Western societies
(something akin to Janowitz’s constabulary force).
Bringing the strong arm to the people, bringing the military into the villages and
small towns would provide practical solutions that work better than conventional methods.
If the mission’s leadership would focus more explicitly on practical problems, use technical
information to judge the progress made and act to resolve the concrete issues at hand,
things are likely to improve for the better.
A peacekeeping force is generally composed of troops from a variety of countries
(Soeters and Tresch, 2010). They operate within a historical, cultural, geographic and
institutional plurality of human persons living in overlapping communities (Perez,
2012).9 This double pluralism makes Brendel‟s second “P” clearly relevant. These
pluralities of persons have a stake in the process and outcome of problem resolution. If
peacekeepers are to mediate in this environment they need to gain the respect and trust
of the indigenous population. A first step is to acknowledge and work within the
pluralistic environment.
Absolutism closes the peacekeeper‟s mind to potential useful tactics or strategies,
while a pluralistic openness allows the peacekeeper to consider all options.
Pragmatism‟s pluralistic emphasis not only provides the element of open mindedness
to the situation, it allows for the eclectic hybridization of competing theories, beliefs,
and interests, In a sense, this is the core epistemic principle necessary for success as a
As mentioned before, peace operations run by the UN are by definition
multinational; the composition of other alliances’ missions is for practical reasons almost
always multinational (Soeters and Tresch 2010). In 2011 MONUSCO’s diverse leadership
came from the U.S.A., Algeria, Ivory Coast, India (Force Commander) and Niger (Police
Commissioner). At the time of our fieldwork in 2009 the Force Commander came from
Senegal. The tens of troops-contributing countries were - and are - predominantly from
developing countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangla Desh, Uruguay, Morocco and Nepal.10
Generally, the mission’s multinational pluralism is appreciated because as one of the
interviewees said, it reflects “the whole experience”. It reflects and recognizes the cultural
In addition there are diplomatic entourages and nongovernmental operations.
Western countries commitments in Iraq and particularly Afghanistan made it difficult for them to contribute to
MONUSCO’s mission.
diversity of both peacekeepers and host-nationals (Rubenstein, 2008). The African
background of the Force Commander at that time was also valued because he understood
with “great depth of knowledge and experience” what was going on in this African context,
and acted accordingly. He was considered a “son of Africa”. The absence of Western troops
has dispelled possible Congolese population resentments against “whites” that go back to
colonial times. In addition, the mission composition offered more space for these troops to
develop mutually adjusted working styles without being overwhelmed by the - seemingly more professional and better equipped Western armed forces. Multinational diversity
creates the potential to search for a specific pragmatic operational style conducive to
realizing the mission’s goals.
Multinational diversity also produces challenges (Soeters and Tresch 2010). For
example, communication is complicated because not all soldiers on the Congolese ground
speak the host nation’s international language (French), let alone the indigenous languages.
In addition, confusion about lines of authority inhibits multinational military cooperation.
Many national troops consider the hierarchical line with their home commanders at least
as important as the orders of their mission commanders. That is why they feel they need to
call their home HQ before commencing particular mandated operations. Finally, the logistic
facilities, gear and general equipment of troops of some countries are so limited that it
reduces the troops’ possible impact.
The civilians working alongside the military are another source of diversity. This is
civil-military cooperation based on the idea that conflict resolution is not only a matter of
providing security but also – and simultaneously - a matter of nation and economy
building. Unfortunately, in UN missions, such as in MONUSCO, civilians and the military
seldom work, “shoulder to shoulder” in a participatory, cooperative manner. Logistic
facilities are separated and often poorly coordinated. Further, their general working
conditions and content are separate. As one interviewee explained: “the civilians and the
military are in two separate trains going towards the same direction”. This point should not
be exaggerated, but it is generally viewed as an area for improvement. It is said that
civilians could accompany the military and work in military assignments. Civilian project
developers could perhaps also play a role in a new effort to decentralize MONUSCO
personnel placing them physically closer to the host nation’s people (see above). All in all,
“you find a huge number of perspectives in the mission.” This means: “you will have to
work hard to see the existing themes.” Clearly a pluralistic perspective can be helpful
reconciling these perspectives. This implies the continuous re-evaluation and re-aligning of
tasks and operational styles.
Brendel‟s participatory criterion gives voice to the myriad groups with an interest
in resolving the problematic situation, which emphasizes engagement with the local
population. Community participation enables a deeper and fuller understanding of the
problematic situation. In other words, effective inquiry of any kind has a social
dimension and promotes a spirit of democracy. Dewey and Addams notion of
participatory democracy is perhaps the most profound component of classical
pragmatism and the easiest to apply to practice. The term “democracy” is usually
associated with representative or procedural democracy. Participatory democracy is
broadly defined as a way of communicating that takes into account the diversity of
human experience (Dewey 1998). While peacekeepers cannot dictate the disputing
parties will move toward a political democracy, they can practice participatory
democracy as they engage local populations around concrete problems.
Fundamentally, active pragmatic inquiry incorporates the participation of all
stakeholders (e.g., Ansell 2010). For peacekeeping missions this implies the participation of
host-nationals. MONUSCO hires some 3,000 local employees who perform fairly mundane
jobs, which facilitate the work of the international staff. But in terms of the mission’s efforts
to communicate with the host-national population local employees are really important,
because they know the local habits, customs, politics and most of all the local languages. In
Radio Okapi, the mission’s most important communication instrument, and other
communication outlets, local Congolese employees play an extremely fruitful role. There is
still space to improve communication of the mission’s intentions to the host-nationals,
however. The voice of the missions’ purpose is virtually absent from talk shows on TV
feverishly discussing national politics. One can never communicate too much with the
people involved, as the classical pragmatists have demonstrated.
In contrast to other parts of the mission, the mission’s strategic apex contains
virtually no Congolese staff members. Hence, the host-national voice is not incorporated
into deciding upon and developing the mission’s general strategies. That predominantly is
a foreigners’ affair, no matter how cosmopolitan, idealistic and highly qualified these
people may be. Further, mutual suspicion and lack of understanding challenges the
relationship with Congolese politicians and authorities despite regular meetings. As a
consequence, peacekeepers feel unappreciated, “The Congolese are not even thankful for
what we are doing here.”
MONUSCO appears to take the role of the expert and is not able or really interested
in getting feedback from the populace. By ignoring feedback from the populace a potential
mechanism of self-regulating social control is negated. Furthermore, previous
internationally publicized sex-related scandals between UN personnel and local women
have discouraged informal interaction with host-nationals. This is a deliberately
formulated and implemented policy to respond to the scandals producing the unintended
consequence that interaction with the local population is almost impossible.
A final, but decisive point involves cooperation with the official Congolese armed
force (FARDC) in the mission’s actions. Interviews with military, staff and local
stakeholders revealed this important aspect of the mission frustrating, even though there
have been improvements in the mutual interaction. The UN troops consider the FARDC
unprofessional and poorly disciplined. Since, the brassage, the integration of the former
rebel groups expanding the FARDC from some 100,000 to 130,000 soldiers, peacekeepers
feel the cohesion and the chain of command and control within FARDC have become
weaker. The communication between MONUSCO and the FARDC predominantly takes place
by mobile phones only, because the distribution of UN staff across the vast regions is
limited. Furthermore, communication is not always rewarding in the eyes of UN personnel:
if FARDC needs MONUC, it is “for assistance, rarely for advice”.
All in all, from the perspective of participation and integration of host-national
views – an important aspect of pragmatic thinking and doing - there are still a number of
challenges ahead.
The politics of resolving longstanding conflict is inherently unpredictable.
Furthermore, the continuum of conflict and resolution may make one set of successful
practices obsolete while others need to emerge (Perez, 2012). Their actions become
experiments in and of themselves, whose results should yield further modified actions.
Without the willingness to accept that an action has not worked the process of inquiry is
futile. Hence, in pragmatism experimental inquiry always contains a provisional
component and incorporates organizational learning and innovation. Without a
provisional orientation the peacekeeping force would “lose its flexibility, its power of
quick adaptation and its readiness to change its method as the environment demands”
(Addams, 1910, 125).
An example of such a process of experimentation and learning emerged at
MONUSCO‟s headquarters. In the interviews with the civilian staff members it became
clear they were striving to create more integrative systems, which bypassed and in fact
deleted bureaucratic stovepipes. Mission HQ recognized the various “stovepipes” in
the mission‟s bureaucracy were problematic and decided to operate “cross-functionally
by means of an Integrated Study Framework”. Through this framework all military and
civilian aspects of the mission – administration, police, general security, justice,
elections, community support, etc. - would be integrated because the previous
stovepipes at the HQ did not work adequately. This ambition reflects a „provisional‟
mindset and way of working at the HQ level.
At the same time, however, many interviewees complain about the mission‟s
inability to “memorize and take lessons learned seriously” as demonstrated by an
unwillingness to devote resources to lessons learned inspired initiatives. Despite the
organizational developments at HQ level, an interviewee expressed this as follows:
“once a system is set up, it is difficult to change it”. Perhaps this perspective reflects the
inability of the boots on the ground to make changes that reflect lessons learned since,
the soldiers who come from many countries, are dispersed throughout the vast Congo
and are rotated fairly quickly in and out of the mission‟s area. Their conduct and
approach towards the local people and, their practical behavior on the streets and in the
bushes can make or break the mission.
The provisional orientation contrasts with an all-knowing expert who has the
one best solution. Classical pragmatism does not deny the role of expertise but
acknowledges that in the end, even the most qualified expert can be wrong. The error is
in proceeding with a strategy, which experience proves is wrong, and rationalizing such
a commitment with arbitrary dogma. Every expert can be incorrect and every
community of inquiry can produce error.
One of the interviewees described a behavior that UN troops should perhaps
“unlearn.” UN forces emulate the FARDC practice of driving around with guns
pointing outside towards the people in the streets, ready to jump if needed. Not
surprisingly this military drill is not well liked by the local people, who in general do
not appreciate FARDC. The impression the UN military make on the local population –
too often frightening rather than peaceful - is a matter that has been reported before in
discussions about UN missions all over the world, including Congo (Pouligny 2006,
This impression seems to be a matter of details rather than of fundamental
importance; yet, practical attention to details often portend the essence of success, as we
know from the world of sports, games and high-tech innovation (Seely, Brown and
Duguid, 1991). But practical details can only be useful for improving and innovating the
organization if communities-of-practice within the organization are enabled to
experiment, discuss and learn from previous experiences. In UN missions, such as
MONUSCO, this would imply for instance cross-contingent diffusing, reviewing and
discussing of recent experiences and practical ideas. The ability to learn and creatively
reflect about how details‟ contribute to achieving a peacekeeping missions‟ purpose is
an essential feature of pragmatic thinking and doing.
At the same time the observation concerning the military drills frightening the
population may not be a learning experience for the UN contingents only; it may also be
useful for the other stakeholders in the area, the FARDC in particular. Learning in peace
operations should go all directions.
The planet continuously witnesses challenges related to tremendous population
growth, climate change, shortage of natural resources and economic advancements
insufficient to alleviate poverty. In many regions of the world, where fragile or failed
states prevail, these challenges produce negative consequences often associated with
globalization (Perry, 2010). In those areas social upheaval, civil conflicts and the threat
of terrorism persist. The international community will continually be called to
intervene, with armed forces, humanitarian assistance and developmental resources.
Even though armed forces have gained considerable experience over the last 20
years this type of intervention is still relatively new. Unfortunately, few of these
experiences have been successful. The armed forces continue to prepare for major
power wars, while the majority of conflicts require operational styles that encourage
civil-military cooperation, host-nation participation, and clever combinations of softand hard (security) approaches. Thinking in terms of „essential foes‟ has become
obsolete. This recognition, however, fails to provide the key to solving the problems at
Frankly, humans still do not know a lot about how to prevent, reduce and solve
violent disputes, hostile conflicts and terrorist threats. Only a flexible attitude of
practical inquiry, which is participatory and provisional in its approach toward testing
diverse solutions, if necessary by muddling and stumbling through, can gradually
provide a starting point for resolving such conflicts. Dewey, Addams and Janowitz
stressed this approach in their seminal works. In today‟s peace missions their examples,
insights and recommendations may provide direction for those involved in
peacekeeping missions and bring us closer to achieving effective and successful
operational peacekeeping styles. Peacekeeping efforts guided by inflexible absolutist
dogma can no longer effectively address the needs of people in turmoil. A flexible
pragmatic approach to peacekeeping offers a way to achieve this end-in-view.
Authors note: Many thanks to Travis Whetsell (Ohio State University, PhD student) for
comments on previous drafts.
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